Market Economy brought back prostitution in China
Opportunities. One of the keywords supporters of the market economy aka capitalism often use to sell it (pun intended) to everyone else. Indeed it has opened up a lot of opportunities where it is the prevailing economic system. Opportunities to create wealth on one hand, opportunities to be exploited on the other.
In China, yes, ‘officially communist’ China where economic reforms has led it to transform into a capitalist state, one particular opportunity has opened up, yet instead of prosperity, misery, suffering, marginalization and exploitation is the result. Lijia ZHang writes for the South China Morning Post:
I blame China’s market economy for this phenomenon because, in the process of China’s transition from a planned to a market economy, women have shouldered too much of the burden and cost. This has driven some of the most vulnerable women into the flesh trade as it presents one of the few options they have.
Having gained power in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party shut down the brothels and declared the oldest human trade eradicated. In the reform era, with growing wealth, relaxed social controls and a large mobile population, the sex industry has made a spectacular return – underground, of course, as it is still illegal. And the market economy has also placed women at a disadvantage. The income gap between genders has been widening. In 1990, urban women on average earned 78 per cent of what men did; the figure today has dropped to 67.3 per cent. Rural women fare even worse at 65 per cent.
The market economy has brought opportunities to women, particularly educated urban women, but also setbacks. The traditional attitude of viewing women as inferior to men, which had been repressed by Mao, has resurfaced with the economic reforms. Some companies set much higher recruiting standards for women, while others refuse to hire women of childbearing age. Female university graduates are having a harder time finding employment whereas, in the past, the government allocated jobs to graduates regardless of their gender. When the ailing state-owned enterprises laid off workers to become more competitive, women were always the first to go.
Lin Zhi, from Shenyang in China’s northern “rust belt”, was sacked from her factory job in the early 1990s. It was almost impossible for an unskilled middle-aged woman to find employment, yet she had to support her two children and a husband who had lost a hand in a work accident. So she travelled down to Tianjin where she found a job at a so-called bathhouse. Then, when she realised that her colleagues who provided sexual services could make a lot more money, she followed suit.
Unlike my grandmother, who was sold into prostitution, the vast majority of women enter the trade of their own accord, but often driven by desperate poverty or unfortunate circumstances: being abandoned by their husbands, having lost their jobs, falling seriously ill. Women serving the middle to low end of the market are typically rural, uneducated and unskilled women, with a few laid-off workers. They make up the bulk of the prostitution workforce. For some middle to high-end sex workers, prostitution is a lifestyle choice. Aware that their chances of securing a high-paid job are slim, a small but growing number of attractive university students offer themselves as mistresses to rich and powerful men, commonly known in China as ernai (second wife), effectively a modern-day concubine.
And many say Socialist regimes are oppressive. In the heartless and soul-less pursuit of wealth and profit, human life, women in particular can easily become just another commodity.